What's going on, you guys! It's May the 4th, Star Wars day (upon writing this.) May the force be with you all! In honor of the date and to coincide with the newest episode of the podcast, here is my current ranking of the Lightsaber Star Wars duels!
In the podcast episode, I only chose five, pure lightsaber to lightsaber duels within the live-action movies. There were many reasons to keep it brief there, but with this article I will go into a teeny tiny bit more depth on why I like each duel (why I don't.)
These rankings will include every duel involving even a single lightsaber (that I don't forget) and will be derived from the movies and ONLY my favorite ones from Star Wars Rebels and The Clone Wars. I am going bottoms up with this list. So, I'm starting, you know, from the bottom. So the last entry on the list is my favorite Lightsaber duel.
Let's get poppin:
Chancellor Palpatine v. Mace Windu, Kit Fisto, Agen Kolar, and Saesee Tiin (Revenge of The Sith) - What can I say? It had the potential to be one of the most interesting and intense battles, but instead Lucas went… a different way. Palpatine sliced through ¾ of his adversaries in two seconds (he did a cool spin while flying through the air though.) It shows Palpatine's prowess and power, but it leaves some to be desired. Also, Samuel Jackson and Ian McDirmaid were not in shape for quite the battle I was hoping for. It was more akin to an original trilogy battle, but did have a wild ending that was part of a turning point in the Star Wars mythology.
Obi-Wan and Asajj Ventress v. Maul and Savage Opress (Season 4, Revenge, The Clone Wars) - Seeing Maul's return as a threat, finally truly. Was wonderful. All four characters (okay, all 3. Mr. Opress doesn't count) have something heavy going on during this battle and it shows. The choreography was great, the setting was, not great, but GOOD. Real good.
Rey and Kylo Ren vs. Knights of Ren and Emperor's Royal Guards (Rise of Skywalker) - I thought the choreography and continuity of this scene was really… bad. Kylo did that weird behind the back thing, Rey killed, like, 3 guys multiple times, and it was just weird overall.
Anakin and Obi-Wan v. Count Dooku (Attack of The Clones) - It's tough to list this battle so low, but I have to choose, you know? I do love the setting, the set is really moody and good for this battle. Dooku is badass with his altered Lightsaber hilt and proves to be the swordsman you would expect a Christopher Lee Star Wars character to be. Obi-Wan and Anakin were best portrayed during their action scenes and this was one of the better ones from Attack of The Clones in terms of showing where Anakin was at this point in his development and how his relationship with Obi-Wan was….shaky in a way. Good scene and duel.
Obi-Wan v. Darth Vader (A New Hope) - Obi-Wan and Vader have the first on screen duel that is beautiful in its own way. I like it. I think it deserves it's credit there. Still, it's just so so… bad? They could only do what the budget, actors, and effects could allow. It just pains me to watch in a way. Cannot deny its greatness and importance to the franchise and cinema.
Rey and Kylo Ren v. The Praetorian Guards (The Last Jedi) - Once again, it is WILD that I have to put this down so low on the list. When I saw it in theaters (every time I saw it in a theater) I was in awe. The tension that builds before the fight really starts is impressive and it makes the initial strikes very satisfying. The choreography is rather sloppy in moments, but in other moments we see some of the most creative and best moments in any Lightsaber battle on screen so far.
Anakin and Obi-Wan v. Count Dooku (Revenge of The Sith) - A very elegant battle that strikes a great balance between the artsy, martial arts displays of the prequels and the slower, more swordsman like battles of the original trilogy. Dooku is as campy and menacing as ever. Throw in Obi-Wan knocking some droids out and Palpatine telling Anakin to DO IT and you have a great scene and duel!
Qui-Gon Jinn v. Darth Maul (Phantom Menace) - The first on screen lightsaber duel was not very fancy, but something about it is raw and exciting. Maul leaping into action, one blade ignited, hood and cloak on, Jinn springing into action at a moment's notice and handling the sith Lord like a true Jedi. The lighting is, well, tatooine, but that makes it sort of… Great. It's flat, bright sunlight but it still has a decent quality to it. Makes for a good contrast to the battle going on. It is also physically sets up the conflict to come between the light and dark side for the rest of Skywalker saga.
Rey v. Kylo Ren (on Kajimi, Rise of Skywalker) - This was a scene that rivaled Kylo and Rey in the hut in The Last Jedi. Daisy Ridley really turned in a great performance in this film, so her and Adam Driver really had, surprisingly, good material to work with and they brought it. The duel itself isn't the most exciting, but the dialogue and great editing makes it a great scene in a WILDLY uneven and even bad (in some suspects) film.
Yoda v. Count Dooku (Attack of The Clones) - This is a battle that a lot of people don't like because they don't think Yoda should be flipping around like popcorn in a bag in the microwave being popped. In a microwave. I LOVE it. LOVE LOVE LOVE IT. I think it is a mix of nostalgia and the fact that I just like seeing Yoda FLIP. HIS. SHIT. Also my family and I would sit together and flip OUR shit when the scene came on. My Dad's favorite character is Yoda and he loves the scene. Not my mom's favorite character, but she has a blast watching him fight Dooku.
Rey and Finn v. Kylo Ren (The Force Awakens) - The Force Awakens really shines in certain moments anld this is one of them. Finn and Rey have such a great, natural chemistry and even though we didn't get to know them super duper well in one movie, but they were a great duo. Adam Driver's tortured performance of Kylo Ren… These three coming together at the end of their initial journey on that snowy, dark day is art. Kylo strokes with such force and he is in so much physical and emotional pain. Rey is confused and scared and holding on for dear life, not even knowing that the force was her only friend. Finn was way out of his depth, but he did all he could to protect his new friend. He should have died because he got his spine fucking SLICED, but I digress. Good emotion and good to see a trained soldier in a confused and desperate state, landing a blow or two on one of the most powerful force users (albeit injured) in Star Wars history. Something about the sequel trilogy's lightsaber battles is just so heavy and emotional, this fight is the first and the second best example of it.
Geonosis Battle (Attack of The Clones) - This is a hint of what the height of the Jedi could be on screen. An arena full of Jedi, all taking down droids after droid. Except for the ones who died. We saw Anakin with a green lightsaber, Obi-Wan in action, Mace Windu in action (cutting heads off, destroying families), Kit Fisto was deflecting blasters HARD… it's a great show of jedi in action as a force, not just protectors. Which is problematic in and of itself, but still great and cool. One of the heights of Attack of the Clones.
Yoda v. Palpatine (Revenge of The Sith) - Yoda, once again flipping around like a madman on crack. The most powerful Sith Lord (maybe ever) and the most powerful Jedi ever (so far) fighting in the Senate Chambers, where democracy fell and the empire rose. Also a much better duel compared to Mace Windu v. Palpatine, I know it probably isn't McDirmaid, but the action is really well portrayed. Great and emotional scene in the end of the best Star Wars movie.
Darth Sidious v. Maul and Savage Opress - Sidious. At his absolute BEST. In terms of
his prowess in a battle. We have seen him as the master manipulator in all five movies (6) he has appeared in, but we also saw him as the all powerful, masterful duelist he can be. He just toyed with two dathmorians, both powerful in the force (one more than the other), killed one, and disgraced the other (albeit while no one was watching.) Also some impressive choreography for a cartoon.
Kylo Ren v. Luke Skywalker (The Last Jedi) - This only sort of counts, but it was a wonderful payoff on Rian Johnson's theme or idea of nonviolence that was present in Star Wars Episode 8. Kylo, with all his rage and anger and uncertainty, falsely putting that energy towards what he believed he had to or needed to do. He v. his former teacher, The Great Luke Skywalker. A standoff akin to a great Western flick. Sun low in the sky, ground red and made of salt, an army behind Kylo. The rebellion at risk. Kylo tried to use all of his hate and anger and came up empty. He walked into that battle almost as sure as he ever was and he left it a shell of a man. Luke also showed what we could have seen if we got a sequel trilogy anytime sooner than 30 years after the original trilogy. It's also literally amazing that Luke had the POWER. THE RAW, EXTREMELY TAMED POWER to project himself across the galaxy.
Obi-Wan v. General Grievous (Revenge of The Sith) - This is an easy one, here. Four arms. Four Lightsabers. General Grievous. Utapau. Droid Army. Obi-Wan FUCKING Kenobi.
Ashoka v. Darth Vader (Season 2, Twilight of The Apprentice, Rebels) - Ahsoka has developed into absolutely one of the greatest Star Wars characters EVER. She evolved from garbage canon fodder in 2008's The Clone Wars movie to Star wars legend by season 2 of the show. Her battle with Vader was second to only Luke's battle with him in Return of The Jedi in terms of the two actually being evenly matched. She was Vader's foil and their duel was one of the saddest moments in Star Wars canon for me. The former apprentice versus the former Jedi, her teacher, in an ancient sith temple on a dead world, the apprentice got the best of the sith Lord for a moment and his eyes and true voice we're exposed. A truly haunting moment and great duel.
Rey v. Kylo Ren (on Death Star Wreckage, Rise of Skywalker) - Both actors were at the top of their chemistry game together and this scene takes place amidst amidst a water soaked Death Star when the two are finding themselves as CHARACTERS. Both have never found themselves at a lower moment, I don't think so at least, and it came on an ancient and important site in star wars history. As I wrote with the battle in The Force Awakens, the strikes and form of lightsabers and lightsaber combat in the sequel trilogy is impressive and emotional. It pays off in a scene that sees Rey nearly fall down Luke's wayward path and Kylo nearly die with his false belief in the dark side. Also, they do cool flips.
Ahsoka v. Darth Maul (Season 7, The Phantom Apprentice, The Clone Wars) - Wow. Just. WOW. The call to use Ray Park for mo-cap in The Clone Wars is one of the greatest calls ever in the history of decision making. The duel is truly amazing and full of emotion. It has the grand Cinematic feel and construction of The Last Jedi or Revenge of The Sith and is finally the clone wars duel that we were waiting to see from Maul and Ahsoka since we saw them duel in Rebels. Also, Maul's pleas to let him die at the end we're great after he, once again, let his arrogance get the best of him.
Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan v. Darth Maul (Phantom Menace) - What can I say that hasn't already been said? The Cinematic excellence of the duel of the fates is one that will never be matched in terms of elegance and COOL factor. Maul at his best as a swordsman and Obi-Wan learning one of the hardest lessons one can learn in life. Qui-Gon died a warrior. He knew Anakin was the chosen one, even if it meant the galaxy falls into Darkness for years and years until he finally comes around. Maul and Obi-Wan were young, strong, and determined to survive in a fight to the death. Obi-Wan even giving in to the darkside a little bit before finally defeating Maul in the ultimate salute to the high ground.
Luke v. Darth Vader (The Empire Strikes Back) - Pfffft. Empire is the second greatest Star wars movie and this finale is so so good. How does anyone deserve to see the excellence that is Vader v. Luke round 1? Vader toyed with his prey, stalking him like a cat stalks an injured mouse. Luke failed Yoda's dogmatic test to become a Jedi by attempting to save his friends and it cost him. He became a better person and Jedi in the end because of it, but it came at a short term cost. The color work is amazing. Many of the frames look like a painting. Vader is as scary as he gets (cept for Rogue One) and Luke is as human and vulnerable as it gets. Such emotion and technical excellence come together to create one of the most memorable duels and moments ("No, I am your father!") in cinema history.
Anakin v. Obi-Wan (Revenge of The Sith) - Battle of the heroes. My favorite track in any Star Wars film. This battle makes me tear up ever time. Anakin is in full rage, his world crashing down around him. Obi-Wan is hanging on for dear life trying his best to turn his friend back to the light side, but he knows he has to kill him. While the galaxy falls into dictatorship and everyone else suffers. Anakin is fighting for his own life and dreams, even though he knows something is wrong and that he can't win. His turn was so violent and sure, Anakin ceases to exist and Darth Vader is truly born by fire and pain. An amazing ending to the prequels to set up Like and Vader's journey. It is the most epic and amazing Lightsaber choreography in Star Wars history as well, you know. So, yeah.
Thank you for reading, drop your own rankings below and be sure to watch the most recent episodes of the podcast on YouTube or anywhere you get your podcasts!